Magazine article Sunset

Seattle's Urban Archeology ... Touring the Underground

Magazine article Sunset

Seattle's Urban Archeology ... Touring the Underground

Article excerpt

Seattle's urban archeology . . . touring the underground

"I want to warn you that it's dark, dank, and smelly down there, but it's kind of neat and I think you'll like it.' Though startling, the tour guide's welcome captures the tongue-in-cheek tone of Seattle's Pioneer Square Underground Tour. Recent renovation makes this urban history lesson seem less like a walk through an old basement and more like a visit to an archeological dig--a choice outing for a gray December day.

When the great fire of 1889 burned 66 blocks of Seattle's business district to the ground, the city took the opportunity to solve serious plumbing and drainage problems by regrading and rebuilding at a higher level. That left storefronts and sidewalks forgotten underground until 1965, when locals began investigating in an effort to save Pioneer Square.

Today, new boardwalks cover the uneven underground sidewalks. Floodlights illuminate cobwebbed corners, old stone archways, and antique signs and implements positioned along the tour route. Beneath the Pioneer Building, you can examine such items as a tin Victorian bathtub with engraved feet and a dismantled 1910 Otis electric elevator--one of Seattle's oldest. …

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